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Getting Lost in the Magic of Ubisoft’s Beautiful God Game – From Dust

This God game's art drew the attention of gamers long before the game was created. But did the game itself live up to its art?
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

A quintessential sandbox god game, From Dust is unassuming. Although it may not be the most spoken of game available today, From Dust remains an innovative choice within the God games genre. Created in 2011 by Ubisoft, the game is available on Xbox, PC, and PS3.

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There’s something special about From Dust. When you load the game up, regardless of what platform you use to play it, there is an immediate feeling of meaning attached to it. Because of this, I became intrigued by the game immediately. There are no cartooney, funny little villagers as there were in Black and White 1 and 2; you start From Dust with tribal villagers living on an island. 

From Dust is all about nature, terraforming, and controlling the environment to help your tribal villagers progress throughout the game’s history. At the start of the game, your villagers know only how to call you, their God, for assistance. By terraforming the earth, growing plants, terraforming water, lava, and other items, you provide what they need to develop their villages and then progress to each level’s portal. You also help to protect the villagers from natural disasters.

Gameplay

To get a look at the gameplay, let’s take a look at the Let’s Play video created by GamerClipz on YouTube. As you can see, you are “God,” and are represented by a small glowing trail that tends to spin in circles when not being physically moved with the mouse or a controller. The main way that you assist villagers is by picking up and dropping elements from the environment itself. Items dropped on villagers can and will kill them, so it is important that you are careful to not just drop items down without looking.

 The only thing that differs between versions greatly is how you pick material up; in the desktop version, you simply use the right and left mouse buttons. In the XBox version, you use left trigger and right trigger (LT and RT). The same is true for PS3. The camera is controlled by a variety of other control mechanisms that are introduced in the first few levels of the game itself. It’s all very easy to manipulate, although the sheer response speed of the glowing trail can be a little much. This can be adjusted through the settings menu if it causes jerky play.

One of the main highlights of gameplay is the occasional cinematics sprinkled throughout the game. While cinematics can sometimes break up a game unecessarily, there’s a very artsy charm to them in From Dust. I found myself looking forward to the cinematics.

While the game may seem easy at first, make no mistake–the challenge does rise as time goes on. By the end of the game you will likely be losing at least a few times before achieving the level. The entire storyline is estimated to take approximately six hours.

Positives and Negatives

 Easily one of the best features of the game, the environments themselves are almost breathtaking. Each level looks as if it was painted digitally. Skies, water, and earth are all fairly detailed and fit in well with the game’s philosophical meaning and roots.

The game itself is not overly complex; nor is the game difficult until the very last levels. But From Dust is not necessarily all about skill or ability. It’s far more directed towards drawing you in and grabbing your attention–and to some degree, your emotion. One major thing I noticed while playing this game was an immediate emotional connection to my villagers. In a scene where a villager gets swept out to sea, I felt adrenaline rise as I worked to save the little child. That’s really where the game excels. It’s a beautiful experience that artists, philosophers, and other deep thinkers will love.

Unfortunately, there are a few negatives associated with the game. It’s quite short, and has little replay value outside of simply wanting to see the game environment again. Because it’s so affordable (currently $4.99 on Steam), this may not even be an issue.

Additionally, the camera controls are seriously clunky. They not only have a steep learning curve, but are difficult to use when involved in game tasks. Out of all of the game’s features, this is the feature that I would score the lowest–giving it only a three out of 10. For a world that encourages zipping around and interacting with elements, the camera controls really weren’t developed well.

Conclusion

As a lover of all things philosophical gaming, I had a great time with From Dust. It’s more casual than Black and White or other artificial life games, but has enough depth that you do get sucked in to the process. If you are a gamer who prefers a more complex game strategy, From Dust probably won’t be right for you. If you like engaging, symbolic, ambient God games, you’ll probably enjoy this title quite a bit. Regardless, at the low cost to purchase it, From Dust is worth trying at least once. Take an afternoon to enjoy its music and great video game environments.

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Getting Lost in the Magic of Ubisoft’s Beautiful God Game – From Dust
This God game's art drew the attention of gamers long before the game was created. But did the game itself live up to its art?

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Author
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MandieM
MandieM is a gamer girl with a double-life. In the day, she masquerades as TaskHeroGirl, a valiant freelance copywriter. At night, she turns back into the mild-mannered MandieM, gamer extraordinaire. She likes games that are packed full of great stories, filled with inspiration and meaning, or even just good, clean, silly fun. When she's not writing at GameSkinny or working, she's probably tucking into the newest Steam game or finding her way through some distant dimension.